1. Eased conditions for practicing as a real estate agent
Since 2013, any legal entity that performs real estate agent activities may apply for registration with the Belgian Professional Institute of Real Estate Agents (Beroepsinstituut van Vastgoedmakelaars (“BIV”) in Dutch, or the Institut Professionnel des Agents Immobiliers (“IPI” in French) (hereinafter referred to as “the Institute”). Once registered, the legal entity is considered a professional real estate agent. The aim was to enable the limitation of the civil liability of real estate agents in this way and to combine the forces of multiple real estate agents.
Under pressure from EU regulations, the newly reformed Real Estate Agent Act has made it easier for legal entities to practice as a real estate agent.
1.1 Legal entities registered with the Institute
The following changes were made to the conditions for legal entities to be registered with the Institute:
- In addition to natural persons, legal entities are now allowed to be members of the governing body of the legal entity, provided that the permanent representative of the legal entity is also registered with the Institute.
- Not all members of the governing body of the legal entity need to be registered with the Institute; a majority of the members of the governing body is sufficient. Only the members of the governing body who are registered with the Institute may (i) engage in real estate agent activities or (ii) represent the legal entity in the context of real estate agent activities.
Therefore, members of the governing body who are not registered with the Institute may not engage in real estate agent activities or represent the legal entity in the context of those activities.
- The requirement that the capital or the voting rights be held by a professional real estate agent for at least 60% has been removed.
- The corporate purpose of the legal entity must include the practice of real estate agent activities, but may extend beyond, provided that it does not conflict with the real estate agent profession.
1.2 Natural persons registered with the Institute
Furthermore, it is possible to carry out the activities of a real estate agent as a legal entity without this legal entity being registered with the Institute. In this case, at least one of the members of the governing body or the working partners (in the case of a legal entity-director, the permanent representative) must be registered with the Institute. This allows for at least one person to be held responsible for compliance with the disciplinary rules.
All members of the governing body and working partners are jointly and severally liable for the exercise of real estate agent activities within the framework of the legal entity.
2. Becoming a real estate agent based on relevant work experience
The new Real Estate Agent Act provides an alternative path to registration with the Institute, in addition to the traditional route of obtaining a diploma and successfully completing a traineeship.
Henceforth, a natural person can request registration with the Institute based on relevant work experience. This opens the door for other professions engaging in real estate agent activities, such as a commercial employee in a real estate office or a practitioner of an intellectual profession. It is still unclear which other work experiences would be considered relevant by the Institute.
Relevant work experience entails the candidate acquiring relevant work experience of at least six years in the ten years preceding the application for registration. This relevant work experience is thus equivalent to the knowledge acquired during the traineeship.
This relevant work experience grants the candidate access to take the proficiency test, which is identical to the proficiency test that trainees must take. If the candidate passes the proficiency test, they will be registered with the Institute.
If the candidate fails the proficiency test, they are given a second chance. If they fail again the second time, they can only retake the proficiency test at least three years after the last result or obtain the diploma and complete the traineeship.
3. Prohibition to practice as a real estate agent
The Act introduces a new rule that prohibits a person who is suspended or disqualified from continuing to practice the profession of real estate agent, even as an employee. This ban applies for the duration of the sanction. The agent can, however, request rehabilitation.
This change is intended to prevent a suspended or disqualified real estate agent from continuing their activities as an employee under the supervision of a self-employed individual, who could be a frontman.